The Cygnett Workmate case for the iPhone 5 uses a blended construction. Rather than two complete layers of material, the soft silicone and polycarbonate parts are fit together in key places. This saves on weight but also has disadvantages.
This case is described by the developer as for the rough and tumble and is built rugged to handle rough treatment. Where it differs from other designs, say, the OtterBox Commuter, is that the hard polycarbonate layer doesn’t wrap around the iPhone 5 everywhere. It's serious protection is primarily on the back and the long sides.
The result is that the soft silicone is left to protect the top, the camera aperture, and the bottom of the iPhone. A side effect of this is that it seems all too easy for the silicone layer to peel away from the iPhone at the top. While you have to overtly pull on the case in that area to make it happen, it does create a mild sensation of looseness in the design.
Another downside to exposing the silicone in various places is that it picks up lint. It time, the black silicone looks rather dreadful. Thankfully, you can clean it up with some Scotch Tape, but it just shows the benefit of having a hard outer shell everywhere.
Using the Case
Partial, outer hard shell (L) and silicone inner layer (R) fit together.
I had the case on the iPhone for a day or so. The first thing I noticed was that my iPhone 5 felt significantly lighter, compared to the OtterBox Commuter thanks to that hybrid design. That may be important to you.
Next, due to the blended design, the silicone is not completely encased in hard polycarbonate, so it’s very, very easy to slide the iPhone into and out of the case. (Perhaps too easy for my taste, but that’s subjective.)
No attempt is made to cover the headphone jack or Lightning port with a flap, and that makes for a very fast, hassle-free connection. Again, it’s a trade between protection and convenience.
Colors are khaki and black or blue and black. I’m not a big fan of the khaki/olive drab colors on a high technology device like the iPhone, and so I would have chosen the blue for personal use. The outdoorsman in you may prefer that greenish khaki color. I’ve seen it on binoculars as well.
It’s hard to quantify the level of protection here compared to, say, the OtterBox Commuter which has a hard layer everywhere. I’ll say simply that if you’re picky about any extra weight and don’t mind the bare silicone picking up some lint, you may prefer this kind of case.
Resting on top of a calculator, apertures & lint showing.
The packaging is kind of odd, a cheap cardboard tray that slides into a plastic outer envelope. I’m not a big fan of that kind of package, but it’s certainly sturdy enough.
Included is a screen protector, soft cloth to clean the screen, a plastic card to push out bubbles, and extensive instructions. There’s also a small sheet that explains how to obtain warranty service, especially useful because Cygnett is located in Australia. Cygnett warrants the product against defects in workmanship and materials for two years.
I noted with just a bit of amusement that the packaging assumes that the iPhone 5 would be called "new iPhone" in the manner of the "new iPad." I can see that perhaps on the packaging, which had to be scheduled ahead of time, but that usage is still on the website. Other makers solve the problem by using a sticky label at the last minute.
The Bottom Line
The overall sensation one gets from this case is something warm, soft and light. Part of that may be due to the fact that the polycarbonate back is textured, and part due to the exposed silicone. In contrast, the full hardshell cases can make your iPhone lose all sense of warmth and feel. Instead, your iPhone feels like a brick. A hard, protected brick.
So I would say that if you expect your iPhone to be subjected to only mildly rugged environments and you’d like to spend about US$10 less, and have a lightweight case with a nice feel, this would be a good choice.
All in all, it’s a good effort, well-conceived, and gets a “solid plus” rating. Just be aware of the trade-offs I described.